"Our story is written in red. But at least we lived to write it."

"We wrote it from fragments of memory, things no one should have to remember. Beautiful things, too. We wrote it all down."

The sky was red that day, outside the studio window....Red sky at morning, sailors' warning…the childhood rhyme returned to me as I dressed, a quiet uneasiness rippling my calm. But I'm not a sailor….I tied the ribbons of my pointe shoes into starched bows. They were black, unlike the other girls' pale pink. I had a leotard to match; plain, soft, sewn for practicality and not frills. No tutu. I wove my usually unruly hair into a tight bun, the fly aways pinned back into submission.

They watched my routine. The spins, bends, leaps, easy lands, movements smooth and with perfect balance, flexible stunts and displays. As I finished, there was silence. They were still watching. They were always watching. But today, someone was watching with them. A man I had never seen before.

They motioned for me to relax my ending pose, and as I did, I saw that the other girls had left. I was alone in this grey room, a room that would soon turn Red. The uneasy feeling returned, creeping up my spine to my neck and through my scalp. A suspicion crept over me, one that said I had worked too hard, done too well at my little game of survival. A suspicion that said I was being promoted to terminate others' chances at it. A suspicion that wasn't wrong.

He looked at me, the man I had never seen before. He was dressed in black, too. Appropriately. This place was filled with that color, the color of death. His eyes were a cold, striking blue, lips drawn into a line. Not an angry one. Not a stern one, either. It was a line of earnest observation and masked interest. Rare.

My eyes traveled down to his hands. One bare, one gloved. Interesting. Maybe he had a prosthetic limb or a deformed hand. He looked as though he had found himself in several circumstances that could have afforded him the injury.

His waist held a belt with several holsters for guns, sheaths for knives, pockets for grenades, and other fatal tools. Boots too. I guessed he must have at least a few weapons tucked in them, probably a few more up his sleeves.

I looked back at his face. Jaw set, eyes apparently taking inventory of me, too.

I wondered why he was there, why his glance never left mine as the empty compliments began to flow from my audience of murderers by profession. I didn't have to wait long to find out.